(Translated from Tadabbur-i Qur'ān by Shehzad Saleem)
وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (32)
This repetitive verse has already been explained earlier.
كَذَّبَتْ قَوْمُ لُوطٍ بِالنُّذُرِ (33) إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ حَاصِبًا إِلَّا آلَ لُوطٍ نَّجَّيْنَاهُم بِسَحَرٍ (34)
The verses say that the people of Lot (sws) also rejected the warnings, and once the truth had been conclusively communicated to them by the Almighty, a stone-charged storm was unleashed on them by Him. The nature of a حَاصِب has already been explained in the tafsīr of Sūrah Dhāriyāt.
The words إِلَّا آلَ لُوطٍ show that only theآلَof Lot (sws) was protected from this storm. The word آلَ has already been explained at a relevant place in this tafsīr: the word does not merely include a person's real offspring; it also includes his symbolic offspring i.e. his followers etc.
The words نَّجَّيْنَاهُم بِسَحَرٍ depict that God sifted out Lot (sws) and his followers at dawn which was before the time the torment descended on his people. One of the succeeding verses has referred to the time of this torment by the words: وَلَقَدْ صَبَّحَهُم بُكْرَةً. This shows that the torment appeared in the morning while these people had already vacated their place before the advent of dawn. This protection obviously was afforded to them by the special grace of God.
نِعْمَةً مِّنْ عِندِنَا كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي مَن شَكَرَ (35)
Being saved from such a horrific torment is only possible because of God's blessing; no one else can do such a thing.
The words كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي مَن شَكَرَ not only express extra-ordinary praise for the trait of gratefulness found in Lot (sws), it is also an open proclamation of the fact that this favour of God is not specific to Lot (sws) alone; even today people who are grateful will be worthy of this special favour for vast is God's mercy.
وَلَقَدْ أَنذَرَهُم بَطْشَتَنَا فَتَمَارَوْا بِالنُّذُرِ (36)
The previous verse was of the nature of a parenthetical sentence. This verse mentions the reason which made them liable for this punishment: it was their obduracy and stubbornness which made them liable for it. The messenger of God had fully informed them from every aspect that if they did not mend their ways, they would be seized by God and no one could help them against God; however, they tried to counter every admonition with baseless arguments.
وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدُوهُ عَن ضَيْفِهِ فَطَمَسْنَا أَعْيُنَهُمْ فَذُوقُوا عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (37)
Expressed in this verse is the last of their audacities after which the punishment of God arrived. Not only did they pay no heed to the warnings of the messenger on their licentious behaviour, they became more and more persistent in it as time passed. The stage came that when the angels appeared to Lot (sws) in the form of two handsome men, they charged towards his house and tried to convince him to hand over his guests to them so that they could quench their desire for them.
People who become blind and deaf in this manner are turned blind and deaf as per the established practice of God. At this stage, they are neither able to pay heed to any counsel nor to the greatest of signs. The only thing which then remains is God's scourge. Consequently, these people too were consigned to it.
It does not necessarily spring from the words طَمَسْنَا أَعْيُنَهُمْ that their eyes were quashed; it can also signify their total deprivation from drawing a lesson. At many places, this style has been adopted by the Qur'ān to convey this meaning. For example, in Sūrah Muhammad, the words are:
أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ فَأَصَمَّهُمْ وَأَعْمَى أَبْصَارَهُمْ (23:47)
It is these people whom God has accursed; thus leaving them deaf and sightless. (47:23)
In the light of the above verse, the meaning of طَمَسْنَا أَعْيُنَهُمْ would be that when they were overcome by their desires and reached this ultimate state, the Almighty afflicted them with a curse as result of which they were deprived of seeking any lesson for their future. The real utility of a person's eyes is not because of the sockets in which they are placed; their real purpose is to look beyond and discern things. A person who is deprived of this ability is a person accursed by God and he who has been cursed by God is permanently a target of his wrath.
Incidentally, it is also known that when these miscreants tried to lure Lot (sws) with regard to his guests, the latter in order to assure him had disclosed to him the secret that they were angels and not human beings and that these devils would never be able to even come near them. Right after this disclosure, they bade Lot (sws) leave the place. Once he had departed, it can be adduced that they assumed their actual form as angels and in this form human eyes were unable to see them.
وَلَقَدْ صَبَّحَهُم بُكْرَةً عَذَابٌ مُّسْتَقِرٌّ (38)
In the morning, the torment of a stone-hurling wind descended upon them. It was generally at this time that caravans would be attacked and looted in Arabia. For this reason, the word صَبَّحَ was used in the meaning of loot and plunder (check). It has been indicated earlier that Lot (sws) with his followers had left the place early at dawn, and here it is said that the punishment came when morning had set in. It can thus be deduced that the punishment alighted after Lot (sws) was afforded enough time to vacate the area.
The expression عَذَابٌ مُّسْتَقِرٌّ means a lasting punishment. One form of punishment is that which comes merely for warning and which is meted out both to the believers and the disbelievers without any distinction. While the former learn a lesson from it, the latter only increase in their callousness from it. Another form of punishment is the one which is meted out to the immediate addressees of a messenger when they deny him. Each nation that was given such a punishment was given it in the form of an abiding torment. While the believers were sifted out from the area, those who had denied their messenger were destroyed at that place.
The word مُّسْتَقِرٌّ is meant to point to the fact that the nature of this punishment was not momentary like a gust of wind; it took permanent hold of the place it was sent to.
فَذُوقُوا عَذَابِي وَنُذُرِ (39) وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (40)
This is the repetitive verse which occurs after every prophetic anecdote. I have fully explained it above.
وَلَقَدْ جَاء آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ النُّذُرُ (41) كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كُلِّهَا فَأَخَذْنَاهُمْ أَخْذَ عَزِيزٍ مُّقْتَدِرٍ (42)
Here at the end the fate of Pharaoh and his people has also been briefly alluded to. The word آلَdoes not merely mean his family; it refers to the whole nation. The word النُّذُرُ is in the plural here, and the words كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كُلِّهَا have explained this aspect. The word النُّذُرُ refers to all the signs of warning which manifested themselves at the hands of Moses (sws) to warn the Egyptians of the wrath of God and which have been discussed in detail in the Torah. The Qur'ān has also referred to them and I have explained them elsewhere. Each of these signs was enough to open their eyes; however, so callous had the hearts of these people become that in spite of seeing these signs they remained blind to them.
The words أَخْذَ عَزِيزٍ مُّقْتَدِرٍ refer to the fact that God seized them in a manner as someone who is profoundly powerful and potent seizes and from whose wrath no one can be shielded.
Section III: Verses (49-55)
Coming up are the closing verses of the sūrah. The leaders of the Quraysh are directly addressed and admonished and told to learn a lesson from the history of the Messengers and their nations recounted to them. They will meet the same fate as these nations met when they denied their respective messengers; they are not special so as not to meet this fate. Like them, they too shall be humiliated in this world and face even a worse fate in the world to come. At the end, a brief mention is made of the reward which those who remained fearful to God will receive. Readers may now proceed to study these verses:
Text and Translation
أَكُفَّارُكُمْ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أُوْلَئِكُمْ أَمْ لَكُم بَرَاءةٌ فِي الزُّبُرِ (43) أَمْ يَقُولُونَ نَحْنُ جَمِيعٌ مُّنتَصِرٌ (44) سَيُهْزَمُ الْجَمْعُ وَيُوَلُّونَ الدُّبُرَ (45) بَلِ السَّاعَةُ مَوْعِدُهُمْ وَالسَّاعَةُ أَدْهَى وَأَمَرُّ (46) إِنَّ الْمُجْرِمِينَ فِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ (47) يَوْمَ يُسْحَبُونَ فِي النَّارِ عَلَى وُجُوهِهِمْ ذُوقُوا مَسَّ سَقَرَ (48) إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ (49) وَمَا أَمْرُنَا إِلَّا وَاحِدَةٌ كَلَمْحٍ بِالْبَصَرِ (50) وَلَقَدْ أَهْلَكْنَا أَشْيَاعَكُمْ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (51) وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ فَعَلُوهُ فِي الزُّبُرِ (52) وَكُلُّ صَغِيرٍ وَكَبِيرٍ مُسْتَطَرٌ (53) إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَنَهَرٍ (54) فِي مَقْعَدِ صِدْقٍ عِندَ مَلِيكٍ مُّقْتَدِرٍ (55)
Are the disbelievers of your nation better than those of the other nations or is there an acquittal written for you in the heavenly scriptures? Do they claim: "We are a group who has the ability to fight back." They should remember that their group shall soon be routed and they will turn and flee. (43-45)
In fact, the actual time in which the promise made to them shall be fulfilled is the Day of Judgement, and the Day of Judgement will be most grievous and most bitter. (46)
Indeed, these wrongdoers are in error and shall end up in Hell. They should remember the Day when they shall be dragged face-downwards into the flames of Hell. Taste ye now the sensation of Hell. (47-48)
We have created everything according to a measure. And Our directive will be fulfilled in the blink of an eye. And We destroyed nations like yourselves. So is there anyone who will take warning from their fate?! (49-51)
And everything they have done is recorded in registers and every matter, small or great, is noted down. (52-53)
Indeed, those who fear God shall dwell in the bliss of gardens and rivers, a place of permanent honour, before a Mighty King. (54-55)
أَكُفَّارُكُمْ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أُوْلَئِكُمْ أَمْ لَكُم بَرَاءةٌ فِي الزُّبُرِ (43)
The Qurayash – who are under discussion since the beginning of the sūrah – are directly addressed here. They are told that they have heard of the fate of nations who denied their respective messengers. So why would God adopt a different attitude towards them if they follow in the footsteps of those nations? Are their disbelievers better than the disbelievers of those nations or is there some acquittal written for them in divine scriptures so that they can do whatever they like without any accountability? It is a requisite of God's justice that He deal with each nation in the same manner, and this is actually what is written in the scriptures. So from where have they obtained the permission of general immunity?
This subject is discussed in Sūrah Qalam in the following words: إِنَّ لَكُمْ فِيهِ لَمَا يَتَخَيَّرُوْنَأَمْ لَكُمْ كِتَابٌ فِيهِ تَدْرُسُوْنَ (67: 37-38) (have you a scripture in which you read that you will have whatever you desire? (68: 37-38))
أَمْ يَقُولُونَ نَحْنُ جَمِيعٌ مُّنتَصِرٌ (44) سَيُهْزَمُ الْجَمْعُ وَيُوَلُّونَ الدُّبُرَ (45)
The implication of this verse is that if they think that they are a strong group and no one can harm them, then this thought of theirs is baseless. No one can resist the punishment of God.
Just as people who are proud of their strength in this way ignore any threat or warning from their opponents, the same way, in fact even more so, they do not regard the warnings of messengers of God to be worthy of attention. They rely so much on their worldly resources that they are unable to understand how and from where divine punishment will descend on them. These verses warn them that if they vainly reckon that they can fully defend themselves on every front, they should remember that their strength can be of absolutely no use to them before the might and power of God; when it manifests itself, they shall be routed and will scamper backwards.
بَلِ السَّاعَةُ مَوْعِدُهُمْ وَالسَّاعَةُ أَدْهَى وَأَمَرُّ (46)
The implication of this verse is that although they will be routed and ravaged in this world, the warnings sounded to them will in reality manifest in the Hereafter. It will be a very severe and bitter day for them.
It should remain in consideration that the punishment mentioned in the previous verse is necessarily meted out in this world to those who intentionally deny their messengers. In the verse under discussion, the punishment referred to is the one which they will face on the Day of Judgement, which will be very critical for them.
I have explained the established practice of God at a number of places of this tafsīr that the immediate addressees of a messenger who deny him are humbled in this world and in the Hereafter too they are humiliated. It is to this latter reality that this verse refers.
The word مَوْعِد is an adverb of place or time here. It means the real place or time at which these threats sounded to them will materialize.
The word أَدْهَى means that that Day will be so ruthless that people will not know what is going on around them. Each person will be worried stiff.
إِنَّ الْمُجْرِمِينَ فِي ضَلَالٍ وَسُعُرٍ (47)
Today these sinners conceitedly say that if they regarded a human being from among themselves to be a messenger of God and then followed him, they would end up in error and in Hell; however, on that day, they will see with their own eyes that those who denied the warnings of the messenger were in grave error and the result was that they ended up in Hell. The word سُعُر as I have referred to earlier does not mean madness; it refers to Hell. It is mentioned in the plural so that the various sections and abodes of Hell can be alluded to. In a similar manner, the word جَنَّاتٌ is used in the plural at many places in the Qur'ān.
يَوْمَ يُسْحَبُونَ فِي النَّارِ عَلَى وُجُوهِهِمْ ذُوقُوا مَسَّ سَقَرَ (48)
Expressed here is a reminder of the humiliation which the sinners will face on that day. Today these people are denying out of great pride and arrogance; however, soon the day will come when they will be dragged face wards to the fire of Hell. This obviously is a form of extreme humiliation. This punishment will be given to them because out of arrogance and pride they denied an obvious reality.
The words ذُوقُوا مَسَّ سَقَرَ can be expressed through the tongue and can also be a reflection of their circumstances. I prefer the latter. The way they will be dragged face wards will clearly inform them why they are being treated in this manner.
إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ (49)
The promised punishment and the Day of Judgement are certain to come. As far as the question of their exact time of arrival is concerned, the answer is that God has created everything with a special measure and set a definite time period for everything so that it achieves the purpose for which it was created. He deals with nations on a similar pattern as well. If a nation becomes rebellious, He does not seize it at once; He gives it enough respite in which it is able to enliven its abilities of good and evil so that the truth is conclusively communicated to it and it is left with no excuse to put forward on the Day of Judgement. The Quraysh will be dealt in a similar way too. He will give them the requisite respite which they should get as per His law so that if they want to mend their ways in the light of prophetic guidance they are afforded this opportunity; and if this is not to be the case, then enough time should elapse so that when they are seized, they do not complain that they were not given enough time and that had they been given more time they would have reformed themselves. Thus the path of salvation is that they benefit from the time period God has blessed them with and they do not call for the punishment in haste. Its time is fixed; when it will come, no one will be able to stop it.
وَمَا أَمْرُنَا إِلَّا وَاحِدَةٌ كَلَمْحٍ بِالْبَصَرِ (50)
They should not remain under the misconception that God has to make preparations to bring about the punishment and the Day of Judgement and this is what is causing the delay; there is no such impediment in God's way. When He wants to bring it about, He need only order it; not even a repetition of this order will be needed. He also does not require to make elaborate arrangements to give such a directive; it will materialize in the blink of an eye.
وَلَقَدْ أَهْلَكْنَا أَشْيَاعَكُمْ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ (51)
Why has a delay in the punishment enticed them to believe that it is a false threat? If it has not come upon them, then they should see that it did come on the previous nations who were destroyed by God as a result; so why don't they learn a lesson from this? The word أَشْيَاعَكُمْ refers to nations whose anecdotes have been recounted earlier in the sūrah. The implication is that it is a requisite of intellect that man learn a lesson from the fate of others and not believe when everything happens. What use will believing at that time be to him?
وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ فَعَلُوهُ فِي الزُّبُرِ (52) وَكُلُّ صَغِيرٍ وَكَبِيرٍ مُسْتَطَرٌ (53)
They should also not have the misconception that any of their words or deeds are beyond the knowledge of God. Whatever they have done, whether minute or massive has been recorded. God will present to every individual each and everything he had done. The wrongdoer will cry out about the strange nature of the register which recorded every small or big matter in it.
إِنَّ الْمُتَّقِينَ فِي جَنَّاتٍ وَنَهَرٍ (54)
After the wrong-doers, mentioned here is the fortune of the righteous: they will dwell in the bliss of orchards and rivers. The word مُتَّقِينَ here occurs in contrast to the word مُجْرِمِينَ which refers to those who have denied reward and punishment. Thus, مُتَّقِينَ would refer to people who feared being brought into the presence of God and feared punishment. The plural word جَنَّاتٍ shows the expansive nature of Paradise as well as the fact that each person will be given several orchards and within them will be several orchards and mini-orchards. The next sūrah will give more details of this. After the word فِي an ellipses of themudāf occurs signifying the fact that they will be surrounded in the bliss of orchards and rivers. Orchards and rivers are inseparable. Without a river, one cannot imagine an orchard. For this reason, almost at every instance in the Qur'ān, whenever an orchard is mentioned, rivers too are alluded to.
فِي مَقْعَدِ صِدْقٍ عِندَ مَلِيكٍ مُّقْتَدِرٍ (55)
Indicated here is the real success of the believers: this eternal bliss of Paradise will be given to them in a place of permanent honour before a Mighty King. It is this proximity to God makes Paradise into Paradise otherwise it is nothing more than an orchard.
The annexure مَقْعَدِ of صِدْقٍ to shows the formers' permanence and repute just as these meanings are found in the expression لِسَانَ صِدْقٍ. The implication is that the honour they will receive by being in the presence of God will neither be a pretentious display nor temporary so that no one can be held responsible if this honour is taken away after a while.
In the expression عِندَ مَلِيكٍ مُّقْتَدِرٍ the word مَلِيك has more emphasis than مِلْك. The attribute مُّقْتَدِرٍ further stresses it. The implication is that the king of the heavens and the earth is not king just in name as the Idolaters and some misguided sects believe and who regard God to be a remote being who no longer plays any role in their lives; the fact of the matter is that He possesses a vast dominion.
The word عِندَ points to another reality as well: The highest status a person can attain is that he will be able to attain an honourable place near the King of the heavens and the earth. He will never merge into God and become God as is claimed by some esoteric sufis.
With the grace of God, I come to the end of the tafsīr of this sūrah. فَالْحَمْدُ لِلّه عَلَى ذَالِكَ (gratitude be to God on this)
11th August 1977 AD
25th Sha'bān 1397 AH